Hillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure

Hillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure
© Anna Moneymaker

LIGHTHIZER DECLINES TO TESTIFY: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE's top trade official has declined to testify before a key House panel about the administration's efforts to include controversial language protecting internet platforms from legal liability in trade agreements, according to a committee spokesperson.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE declined an invitation to speak before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the administration's decision to include protections for Silicon Valley in trade pacts like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a recently signed deal with Japan.


"As we explore whether consumers are adequately protected by platforms' content moderation practices and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it's extremely disappointing that Ambassador Lighthizer would refuse to testify before our Committee on the inclusion of similar language in trade agreements," a committee spokesman said in a statement to The Hill.

"This hearing would have been an opportunity for him to explain to the Committee members how including this type of language in trade agreements benefits Americans in light of consumers' growing concerns about the health of the internet," the spokesman added. "The Chairman will continue to push this issue with Lighthizer."

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more on the invitation here.


SHARING IS CARING: A bipartisan group of senators is calling for all branches of government to share information on threats to technology supply chains, citing potential risks to national security.

In a Wednesday letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Bolton lawyer slams 'corrupted' White House review process after book leak Democrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell MORE, top members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee called for the Federal Acquisition Security Council (FASC) to come up with a plan of action.

The intelligence community (IC) shares information on threats to the information technology supply chain with civilian agencies through the FASC. Senators want that threat information made available to other branches of government.

"Both Congress and the Executive branch have devoted considerable time identifying ways to enhance the supply chain security of information and communications technology (ICT) on U.S. government systems," the senators wrote. "The work is vitally important, but executive agency solutions do not always mean whole of government solutions."

The senators emphasized that "the government must ensure that information used to secure executive agency computer systems and networks is shared with ICT professionals in Congress and the judiciary."

Read more here. 


APPLES PULLS APP AFTER CHINESE PRESSURE: Apple on Thursday pulled the app that tracked the location of Hong Kong police after pressure from China.

The app, called HKmap.live, had assisted protesters in avoiding police engagements and aggressions, like baton charges, tear gas and ID checks, The Associated Press reported. Its removal has sparked disapproval of Apple among Hong Kong protesters and residents.

Apple in a statement obtained by the AP said the app "has been used to target and ambush police" and "threaten public safety."

"Criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement," Apple said. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store."

Those who have already downloaded the app still have access to it, AP reported. Protesters also use the encrypted messaging app Telegram to report police locations.

Read more here. 


COOL IT: South Carolina on Wednesday approved allowing Google to pump nearly 550 million gallons of drinking water per year to cool its servers.

The decision from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is the latest salvo in an ongoing battle over whether the tech giant should get state approval to pump from a major water source that critics say is being depleted.

In a letter to the company obtained by Columbia's The State, DHEC said that Google must comply with conditions in the permit, including a cap on the amount of water it can withdraw, or risk losing its DHEC license. The permit expires in 2023.

"We strive to build sustainability into everything that we do, and our data centers are no different," Google said in a statement to The State. "We've been proud to call South Carolina home for more than ten years, and we're proud of the investments that we've made here, including more than $2 billion in capital investment, supporting employment opportunities, municipal improvements, educational programs and local nonprofits."

Read more here. 


I GOT SOME QUESTIONS: Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators fret over lack of manpower to build 5G Five tech stories to watch in 2020 Hillicon Valley: House panel unveils draft of privacy bill | Senate committee approves bill to sanction Russia | Dems ask HUD to review use of facial recognition | Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4M MORE (D-Wash.) is pressing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over its controversial $5 billion settlement with Facebook, questioning whether the agreement sets a "dangerous precedent" for the future of the agency.  

In a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons on Thursday, Cantwell demanded more information about the settlement, particularly the sections that resolve any privacy violation allegations made against Facebook between 2012-2019.

"I am concerned that the settlement lets Facebook off the hook for unspecified violations, and given the many public reports of Facebook's mishandling of consumer data, it is difficult to fully understand the impact of this provision on the settlement on the data privacy protection of the millions of U.S. consumers that have used and continue to use Facebook," Cantwell wrote to the chairman. 

Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote that she is concerned Facebook "will not face another penalty" from the FTC over privacy violations that may have occurred between 2012, the year it came under a consent agreement, and 2019, when it was penalized for violating that agreement. 

She is also questioning whether the settlement went too easy on Facebook executives. 

"I am concerned that the release of Facebook and its officers from legal liability is far too broad and sets a dangerous precedent for future Commission actions," she wrote. 

Cantwell is asking for responses to ten detailed questions about the scope of the FTC's investigation, the precedence for releasing Facebook's executives from liability for privacy violations, and the impact of that liability shield.

Cantwell is currently involved in negotiations with Senate Commerce Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — UN calls for probe into alleged Saudi hack of Bezos | Experts see effort to 'silence' Washington Post | Bezos tweets tribute to Khashoggi Senators fret over lack of manpower to build 5G Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing MORE (R-Miss.) to work up the country's first federal privacy law, which would limit how large tech companies like Facebook can collect and use sensitive user data. 

Read more on Cantwell's letter here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Now it's stuck in your head, isn't it? 


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The battle with China is over principles: totalitarian or democratic?



Spies hacked Moroccan activists amid a crackdown on protests, according to new research. (Reuters)  

India is creating a national facial recognition system, and critics are afraid of what will happen next. (Buzzfeed) 

Technology oriented religions are coming. (Quartz) 

Tech giants shift profits to avoid taxes. There's a plan to stop them. (The New York Times)